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Turning the Tide

The University of Alabama in the 1960s

Earl H. Tilford, Jack Drake

Publication Year: 2014

Turning the Tide is an institutional and cultural history of a dramatic decade of change at the University of Alabama set against the backdrop of desegregation, the continuing civil rights struggle, and the growing antiwar movement.

This book documents the period when a handful of University of Alabama student activists formed an alliance with President Frank A. Rose, his staff, and a small group of progressive-minded professors in order to transform the university during a time of social and political turmoil. Together they engaged in a struggle against Governor George Wallace and a state legislature that reflected the worst aspects of racism in a state where the passage of civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965 did little to reduce segregation and much to inflame the fears and passions of many white Alabamians.

Earl H. Tilford details the origins of the student movement from within the Student Government Association, whose leaders included Ralph Knowles and future governor Don Siegelman, among others; the participation of key members of “The Machine,” the political faction made up of the powerful fraternities and sororities on campus; and the efforts of more radical non-Greek students like Jack Drake, Ed Still, and Sondra Nesmith. Tilford also details the political maneuverings that drove the cause of social change through multiple administrations at the university. Turning the Tide highlights the contributions of university presidents Frank A. Rose and David Mathews, as well as administrators like the dean of men John L. Blackburn, who supported the student leaders but also encouraged them to work within the system rather than against it.

Based on archival research, interviews with many of the principal participants, and the author’s personal experiences, Tilford’s Turning the Tide is a compelling portrait of a university in transition during the turbulence surrounding the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Jack Drake

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pp. ix-xiv

Earl Tilford’s carefully researched book leads me easily to the conclusion that 1963–70 is the most important period in the University of Alabama’s history. True, the years immediately following the Civil War were challenging, even ...

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pp. xv-xx

On June 11, 1963, the enrollment of Vivian J. Malone and James A. Hood ended 132 years of segregation at the University of Alabama, the state’s first public university. In September 1964, I enrolled as a freshman. A large billboard greeted my parents and me as we drove into town. It read, “Welcome to...

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Introduction: To Preserve the Unhindered Pursuit of Knowledge

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pp. 1-7

Shortly after becoming president in 1912, George Hutchinson “Mike” Denny referred to the university as “the Capstone” of public education in the state of Alabama. The appellation remains popular to this day.
By 1962, Alabama alumni and students possessed a passion for football verging on the religious. Even prior to the 1960s, the annual gridiron showdown...

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1. The University of Alabama: From Slavery to Desegregation

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pp. 8-28

Beginning in the autumn of 1958, the rising tide of gridiron victories washed away the bad memories of football defeats during the mid-1950s. From that point into the summer of 1963, the University of Alabama rolled along on the fortunes of the Crimson Tide and the growing level of achievements across...

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2. Ebb Tide: June 1963 to September 1964

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pp. 29-47

More than eleven years passed from the time Autherine Lucy’s application for admission reached the University of Alabama’s registrar’s office in 1952 and the day the university desegregated successfully on June 11, 1963. Integration, being different from desegregation, took a lot longer. Desegregation fulfilled...

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3. An Oasis of Modern Thought in a Sea of Reactionism

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pp. 48-69

In July and August the heat and humidity in Tuscaloosa reach their heights. Even at eight o’clock in the morning, prospective male students sweated profusely as they trekked from Paty Hall across campus to the Alabama Union for summer orientation. Young women walking from nearby Mary Burke and Martha Parham Halls suffered nearly as much....

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pp. 70-76

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4. Toward a New University of Alabama: Building a Team for Excellence and Competence

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pp. 77-97

Dean John L. Blackburn turned forty-one years of age in December 1964. After serving in the China-India-Burma Theater during the Second World War, he earned a bachelor’s degree in science at Missouri Valley College and then completed a master’s in education at the University of Colorado. Blackburn...

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5. A Year of Ferment and Inquiry: In Infinite New Directions

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pp. 98-120

During the annual “State of the University” address delivered to the trustees on homecoming weekend in November 1966, President Rose reported, “Excellent scholars and serious students have brought ferment and inquiry to the University of Alabama.” He described an institution moving in “infinite new...

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pp. 121-127

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6. A Regional Center for Academic Excellence: Between Tuscaloosa and Montgomery

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pp. 128-148

George Wallace continued his quixotic pursuit of the presidency throughout the summer of 1967. Meanwhile, in Montgomery, state legislators intent on punishing President Rose for opposing Lurleen Wallace’s attempted preemption of integration of Alabama’s public schools asked Rose and other college...

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7. Campus Militancy Grows: A Past Still Present

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pp. 149-168

The past hangs like a perpetual present over the Capstone with the Woods Hall Quadrangle providing a majestic reminder of what was—and is—the University of Alabama. In addition to Woods, three other historic buildings bound the Quad: Clark, Manly, and Garland Halls. These four structures...

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8. In Defense of Reason

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pp. 169-189

Starting in June 1969, the mood on campus shifted. When women’s fashions became less conventional, the Capstone’s female students, led by AWS, called for an end to dress regulations. The administration responded by allowing women to wear slacks and jeans to class. Their new look, at times bizarre...

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9. May 1970: Days of Rage and Reason

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pp. 190-208

On Wednesday, April 29, rumors percolated around campus that Chicago Seven member Jerry Rubin, out on bail pending appeal of his conviction for instigating riots at the 1968 Democratic convention, might be headed for the university. By Friday, May 1, the administration was preparing for Rubin’s ...


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pp. 209-236


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pp. 237-244


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pp. 245-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780817387259
E-ISBN-10: 0817387250
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817318147
Print-ISBN-10: 0817318143

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 27 illustrations
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 870228711
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Turning the Tide

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Subject Headings

  • College integration -- Alabama -- History 20th century.
  • University of Alabama -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Alabama -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- Alabama -- History -- 20th century
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